Hepatocellular carcinoma, also called liver carcinoma, is a rare, aggressive type of liver cancer. It is more frequently diagnosed in adults and is often seen in conjunction with underlying liver disease (for example, cirrhosis). When diagnosed in pediatric patients, hepatocellular carcinoma is often sporadic but can be linked to hepatitis infection or genetic conditions.
Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Liver Tumor Program. Continue reading to learn more about hepatocellular carcinoma or visit the Liver Tumor Program homepage to learn about our expertise.
The symptoms of hepatocellular carcinoma may vary, depending on the size and location of the tumor. Common symptoms include:
A child’s physician may order a number of different tests to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma. In addition to a medical history and physical exam, these may include:
Ultimately, the diagnosis is confirmed by a biopsy of the tumor. Hepatocellular carcinoma can spread to parts of the abdomen and the lung. Therefore, a full work-up at diagnosis is necessary to define disease extent. After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
Surgery is the key treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma. Successful removal may be difficult, however, if there is tumor throughout the liver, metastases, or scarring/cirrhosis damaging healthy parts of the liver.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used in conjunction with surgery; however, chemotherapy is not particularly effective against hepatocellular carcinoma. A liver transplant may be considered for unresectable disease.
There can be side effects related to the tumor itself or its treatment. Knowing what these side effects are can help a physician prepare for and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.